Good work requires hustle.

While I was out with a friend for dinner one night, we were talking about my upcoming travels when she said something that made my heart drop.

“Ever since high school, you haven’t done much with your life. You were 18 when you left and you’re 24 now, and nothing major has happened.” I was left completely speechless and hurt.

I couldn’t shake off that feeling the whole night. It was as if she was saying I have nothing to show for my life, and I was scared that perhaps she was right. It threw me into doubt and insecurity and made me reflect on what did happen in the years after high school.

In those six years I studied at Bible college for two years and found healing from depression; I moved down to Wellington for one rowdy, wild year to study at University and realized that it wasn’t for me; I began The Lilac Road that same year; I experienced my first love and first real heartbreak, and learned a lot about how to grieve and accept pain in the process; I moved back to Auckland and did a counseling course which healed me in so many ways; I took my first ever solo trip to Ireland, Germany and Prague; I separated from my family for the first time and moved out of home where I found love that nurtured me back to health again; I had my first every boyfriend, and though ended painfully, it taught me the beauty of being vulnerable; I skydived and it was one of the happiest moments of my life; and I quit my job, sold my car and brought a one way ticket where I traveled non-stop for four months to eight countries by myself. I am now currently studying to become an English teacher, freelancing as a travel writer which is one of my biggest dreams come true and working a full-time job to prepare for my move overseas at the end of the summer to begin my journey as a digital nomad.

In those six years I have had seven jobs, traveled to 14 different countries and did a whole lot of growing up. I may not have a degree, a car, an apartment or a relationship in the end to show for it, but I have a bank rich of experience. I wondered, though, if that was even enough.

I talked to one of my best friends about what had happened, and to my surprise, I ended up choking up in tears. She said to me, “You know that quote by Mary Oliver, ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ You are living that. Even if you were lying in a hospital bed for six years, you are enough. You don’t need to do more.

Society wants you to tick boxes. It wants you to fit into what is ‘normal success.’ It rejects anything and anyone that is different and strange because it doesn’t know how to deal with it. I have found that in those six years of finding out what makes me come alive that there has been a lot of resistance and shame for who I am and who I want to be. I am working hard and I am pursuing my dreams – but not in a way that is conventional. I can’t tell you how heartbreakingly sad and lonely this off-beaten path has been to travel on, to be met with pity when I tell people my dreams, and to not have support, acceptance and appreciation which I am not afraid to admit that I desperately need. I am afraid to tell people the life I dream of.

I have tried my best and hardest to fit into normality and the paved route in life. I have tried University, I have tried owning a car and an apartment, I have tried being in a relationship and I have tried being in a stable and well-paying job. None of it made me feel happy or alive. I woke up feeling depressed and bitter about life. I have tried, I have tried, I have tried, but that life just isn’t for me.

I am still processing that hurtful comment and giving myself time to accept the path I have purposefully and intentionally chosen in life. I cannot control how people react or respond to me but I can choose to follow or disregard my heart’s calling. Whatever resistance or challenges that come along my way because of it is mine to bear and overcome… because following my bliss? That’s my non-negotiable.

Image via DesignLoveFest
  • You don’t know me

    Your friend was right, you’ve done very little. Starting a bunch of things without finishing them isn’t significant, that’s a childish way of thinking. Healing and growing counts for something, but real achievements impact other people. Sight seeing and quitting jobs might help you get to a place where you make a real contribution to the world, but they are a means to an end, not a result.

    That doesn’t mean you’ll never do anything worth talking about, but don’t fool yourself in to thinking you’ve actually done that, you’re just getting started. I’m just saying what most accomplished people would tell you, you’re on the right path and that matters, but you’ve got a very long way to go. Helping yourself is good, helping other people is much better. Of course you can’t do that until you’re in a place to do that, but getting there is not being there.

    You say you’ve tried having a car, job etc. and that didn’t make you feel alive or happy? What’s that got to do with anything? Feeling happy is an extra, it’s a bonus from doing what’s right, most things don’t make you happy, almost everything worthwhile costs you hugely, and hurts terribly. That’s normal, you’re living on the pain and passion of generations that came before, you didn’t create the world you live in, other people gave it to you.

    Stop whining about life being hard, that’s a good sign that you’re growing, not a problem to overcome. Start getting used to hard stuff, that’s the only way to improve your character and actually become an adult. At the moment your blog is nothing but trite one liners that you clearly do not yourself really understand. Your posts are a confused mash of wisdom borrowed from other people, and your own childish musings.

    I sincerely hope you grow up a bit more in the next few years, and fully embrace the pain of life. Then, maybe, you’ll get some of that life and happiness you seem to want so badly. Good luck, it’s up to you.

    • You have very strong judgements and criticism about my life. In some ways you are right – I AM just getting started with life and do have a very long way to go. I also agree that happiness is not the goal and that living a meaningful life is far more important, and that journey has been difficult and painful. It doesn’t seem like you know my story at all so saying that I don’t embrace the pain of life was misguided in my opinion.
      I don’t need to defend myself so I won’t say anymore, but I want you to remember that meaning and happiness is a journey, that a lot of people in my generation are on their way to figuring out what that means for them. Not everyone can fit your template or live by your schedule. I hope that one day you will learn to appreciate the power of story and be less quick to judge the moment you disagree with how someone lives their life.

      Also, this is my blog – where I can freely post how I feel and hopefully encourage people along the way. So far, it seems to be doing its job. πŸ™‚

      • You don’t know me

        Interesting, you say ‘this is my blog’, but the key word here is blog, not my. What I mean is that while I don’t know everything about you, you’ve posted a lot of stuff about yourself, and I’ve read some of it. This means I know much more about you than you do about me.

        I’ve read you saying you want to be loved, you have all these dreams etc. but almost everything you’re doing is flung in the opposite direction. You claim to want a husband that you’ll love, but you had a boyfriend, and broke up with him to go traveling??? You claim that tipu can’t fit in to what society thinks is normal, but all your posts are totally standard copies of every other twenty something hipster. You say you want to live your dreams, but you don’t seem to want to work on them in any way. You’ll never, ever achieve anything significant by quitting university, jobs etc. All you’re doing is running away from difficulty, but it’s staying and growing through challenges that improves your character, you just run from one place to another, dragging your problems with you, and adding more every time.

        I’ve been you. I’ve been young and wanted a husband to love me. I’ve had dreams and felt like I didn’t fit in. The only way out of this is to go through it, you need to learn to stick at things, for years and years.

        You’ll never find a man that loves you if you don’t learn to deserve that love. Think about it, why would the man you describe choose YOU? He could do a lot better than that, we always attract people in to our lives that match who we are now, or are a lesson for us to grow from.

        I’m saying all of this because I believe you can make it, I believe you can grow up. I’ve been through many of the same things you have, some easier and some harder. You’ve had a difficult start to life in some ways, and in others you’ve got it very easy. I’m a lot older than you, my close friends are all the same, we thought we knew everything when we were young. I know women who have had much tougher starts to life than you even, but grew and changed and are now happy and loved. You have talked about giving yourself to boys and feeling empty, this is a common pattern. What you’re doing now is giving yourself to a weaker lesser version of you, that will leave you feeling just as empty.

        I’m NOT saying you have to buy a car, go to university, get a job. I’m saying you need to start to stick at things, take a lobby term view. You need to find something you cam keep doing for years and years, and it might take years to find that! I know it sounds like I’m judging you, but what I’m really trying to do is help. Not many people are going to tell you the truth, I’m only doing it here because you don’t know me, even after all these years I’m too timid to do it if I met you face to face. But I’m right. You’ll never get strong enough to create your dreams in your life if you keep skipping from one thing to the next. That gives you the illusion of a life, but that’s all you’ll ever have. That’s what I mean by you haven’t done much, all your life so far is just preparation. Choose something to do, it almost doesn’t matter what, then keep doing it for a long, long time. If that’s traveling then ok! But how will you do that without money? Very few people can, I’ve known many young women that wanted that, none of them ever made it. I’ve also known many women that kept trying to have that AND a great job AND a loving husband AND happy kids etc etc. After a while, you learn that you can’t have everything. You have to choose something, then love that thing that you do have.

        You speak about loving yourself, you talk about this all the time. Really truly loving yourself means doing a lot of painful hats things. It’s not fun. It’s not nice. It’s being your own mum and dad. It’s taking yourself the truth.

        I’m only trying to help, maybe shock you a little in to looking at yourself for real. You’re getting older, your youth will be gone VERY soon. Have something to show for it. Stop whining about how you don’t fit in, and start making a place for yourself to fit in. When you’ve done that for a long long time, somebody else who has also been doing that will find you, and you’ll fit together. Until you do that, you’ll just drift around like you have for the last six years! Don’t wake up at 40 and realize is too late!

        Like I said: good luck, its up to you πŸ™‚

  • AA

    I think you have accomplished so much Jenny, things that would terrify others and me personally to step outside that comfort zone and do things that make you happy! Don’t ever think that you have not done anything in that time! <3
    Your posts inspire me even though I know The Lilac Road is directed more towards females πŸ™‚

    Keep it up and don't stop !! <3

    • Thank you, that’s so encouraging to read πŸ™‚ I’m grateful for your support with my personal life and with The Lilac Road… and if you are who I think you are, you’re inspiring to me too πŸ˜‰